Trust Me, Wear This: How to Make a Good Impression at a Networking Event

Updated 12/05/18
what to wear to a networking event
Collage Vintage

Just like deciding what to wear to an interview, picking out what to wear to a networking event can be a mental obstacle course with so many different messages being thrown your way. Do you go business casual? Business formal? What about adding a few trends to the mix? There's no one protocol when it comes to dressing for these types of professional events, and it will certainly depend on which industry you work in or are trying to break into.

To ease a bit of this stress, we've outlined five different types of networking events you might encounter, ranging from the most formal to most casual engagements. While we do recommend breaking out your best suit for a career fair, it might be overkill to do so for lunch with a mutual connection.

Read through to know what to wear to a networking event so you can hit the right note for each different type of event.

networking event outfits
Style du Monde

Career Fair

Chances are if you're at a job or career fair, you're in the market for a new position. While handing out your résumé to potential employers, you want to make the best impression possible so that they keep your name at the top of their pile. You might even have the chance to do an on-the-spot interview, meaning you should show up in your office best. Suiting separates are always a fail-safe option for these types of professional events.

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Bacall Checked Woven Blazer
Sea Bacall Checked Woven Blazer $545 $327
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Bacall Cropped Checked Woven Wide-leg Pants
Sea Bacall Cropped Checked Woven Wide-Leg Pants $380 $266
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& Other Stories Sock Boots
& Other Stories Sock Boots $179
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what to wear to a seminar
Collage Vintage

Conference or Seminar

If you're attending a conference or any seminar-type events, networking won't be the center of attention, but you'll have the chance to meet professional peers throughout the day and during the conference breaks. You don't have to break out your best suit, but business-casual separates are highly encouraged.

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ASOS DESIGN Tall v neck blouse
ASOS V Neck Blouse $40
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Nanushka Marie Belted Satin Wide-leg Pants
Nanushka Marie Belted Satin Wide-leg Pants $575
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Warner Ankle Strap Pump
Cole Haan Warner Ankle Strap Pump $160 $71
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what to wear to an alumni night
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Alumni Night

Heading off to an alumni event for your college or university? This is a great chance to meet others who share your alma mater in a casual setting. We recommend a more casual look that's still put-together. Jeans are okay for an event like this, but elevate them with a blazer and turtleneck, and show off your winning personality through a fun piece of jewelry.

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Ianey Checked Linen Blazer
Étoile Isabel Marant Ianey Checked Linen Blazer $525 $262
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So Fine Bodysuit
Only Hearts So Fine Bodysuit $94 $38
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Cousin Fit in Isla
Need Cousin Fit in Isla $185 $111
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Thea Mini Earrings
Annie Costello Brown Thea Mini Earrings $244
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what to wear to a cocktail hour
Collage Vintage

Cocktail Hour

Meeting co-workers for drinks? Attending an organized networking night at a wine bar? This is a tricky event to dress for, as it's not totally office-y, but it's also not quite the social hour you're used to with friends. When in doubt, always err on the conservative side. Why not try out a fun pattern or bold color in lieu of a high hemline or overly trendy cut?

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Wednesday's Girl Crop Top
Wednesday's Girl Crop Top $16
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Asymmetric Crepe Midi Skirt
Sonia Rykiel Asymmetric Crepe Midi Skirt $550
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105 Suede Pumps
Gianvito Rossi 105 Suede Pumps $675
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what to wear to a networking lunch
Collage Vintage

Lunch or Coffee With a Connected Friend

Since you're meeting someone with whom you already have a mutual connection, a bit of the pressure is off. Meeting for a coffee or lunch date elicits something you'll be totally comfortable in. Try palazzos or wide-leg pants and a cute (i.e., not frumpy) sweater. Dress it up with pumps or flats depending on the location.

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Who What Wear Collection Long Puff Sleeve Crew Neck Sweater
Who What Wear Collection Long Puff Sleeve Crew Neck Sweater $30
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Blanche Striped Wool-blend Pants
Sies Marjan Blanche Striped Wool-Blend Pants $795 $556
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Nori Leather Mules
Diane von Furstenberg Nori Leather Mules $250 $125
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Next up: 7 Style Tips That Will Make You More Confident in Your Career

This post originally appeared on our sister site, Who What Wear.

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